The Leonardtown Council on Monday approved a final site plan for a 97,500-square-foot storage facility on Route 5, after tabling movement on the plan last month due to concerns regarding the building’s impact on the adjacent Clarks Rest neighborhood.
The developer, Marrick Homes, made changes to its plan for the storage center after council members made requests during last month’s council meeting, asking Marrick to make adjustments that would improve the aesthetics of the storage building, and would shield potential eyesores from view, especially from the view of Clarks Rest residents.
The Clarks Rest Self Storage facility is part of Marrick’s planned-unit development at Clarks Rest.
On Monday, Rick Bailey, co-owner of Marrick Homes, reviewed changes made to the site plan, including windows on the three-story building that will now be tinted to hide its interior from outside view. Also, some coniferous trees will be planted near the facility’s outside boat and recreational vehicle storage area, which can hold between 15 and 20 vehicles. It will also be shielded by an 8-foot-tall fence with vinyl paneling, which was increased from the previous 6 feet.
The building size was also reduced from just under 45 feet tall to 41 feet, Bailey said.
Despite the changes, town residents, most of whom said they lived in Clarks Rest, turned out to oppose the project.
“This is huge,” Mary Ludwig, a Clarks Rest resident, said during the meeting. “This is not a shopping center, this is our neighborhood,” she said, adding that “the majority of the Clarks Rest residents were not aware” of the project.
Marrick Homes notified individual homeowners by mail of the project in October, Bailey said, noting the firm received just three comments in response, “one of which was favorable,” he said.
“If we had heard an influx of comments at the time, we would have taken it into consideration,” Bailey said.
During the town’s public hearing on the plan last month, one person who does not live in the neighborhood spoke out.
“This isn’t really in concert with the vision that you all have” in the town’s master plan, Leonardtown resident Doug Isleib said, adding that development should be executed that will grow the town as a “beautiful destination … not a Route 235, Harris Teeter kind of place.”
“I know there’s a number of people, residents and nonresidents, that would like to see something else there,” Leonardtown Mayor Dan Burris (R) said. “I’ve certainly heard of all the complaints [in Clarks Rest] … but again, it does meet the regulations of our zoning ordinance. … The perception that it’s a huge monstrosity, I think, is a little over concerned. Once people see this, it’s not quite as bad as when you first hear it.”
“Am I sold on this location? I’m really not,” councilman Jay Mattingly IV said. “It’s not what I thought would go in that location. But you are meeting our zoning [regulations], and I do appreciate the fact that you’ve worked with us and made some changes,” Mattingly told Bailey.
“It’s not our No. 1 choice either,” Bailey said. During a meeting last month, Bailey said Marrick had sought to bring more large-scale commercial tenants, but the site would not accommodate the traffic. A traffic signal is planned for the intersection eventually, but with no construction timeline.
A storage facility might produce seven trips an hour on its busiest day, Bailey said.
Councilwoman Mary Maday Slade, who questioned Bailey over the storage facility’s security and safety measures, voted against approving the plan. Council members Hayden Hammett and Christy Hollander were not present to vote.
In other business, the council approved Leonardtown’s $4.6 million 2020 budget, which will increase trash hauling fees for town residents and commercial businesses since the town’s contract with its previous trash hauler expired, Rebecca Sothoron, treasurer for Leonardtown government, said.
Effective July 1, Leonardtown residents will see their quarterly fees go from $56.63 to $66.18. Business rates will increase from $3.54 to $4.43 per cubic yard of trash, and recycling rates for businesses will increase from $3.95 to $5.65 per bin.
The increase returns the trash fees to what they were in 2014, before the town’s five-year contract with Affordable Refuse and Recycling, which had reduced rates for town residents.
Last year, the company was bought by Goode Companies, which increased its service rates, resulting in the higher charges for residents, Sothoron said.